The Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S is a sub $450 nifty fifty for L mount cameras. It took its sweet time coming to market and it has been somewhat hard to get hold of since its official launch. However, it’s here now. Has the wait for it been worth it? Find out in our full review.
I was pretty excited when Panasonic first announced their series of affordable f/1.8 prime lenses. After Panasonic launched their full-frame cameras with just Pro line lenses, their L mount cameras lost some of their appeal as not everyone can drop a few grand on a single lens. However, there are now more affordable lenses than you can shake a stick at for L mount cameras. The Panasonic 50mm f/1.8 is one of them. Find out how it performed in our real-world tests below.
- Small and light
- Good build quality
- Weather sealing
- Fantastic optics overall
- Fast autofocus
- Excellent price
- Ghosting can be a little much at times
Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S — Technical specifications
All technical specifications for this lens are from the product listing at B&H Photo:
- Max aperture: f/1.8
- Min aperture: f/22
- Angle of view: 47°
- Min focus distance: 17.7 inches / 45.11 cm
- Optical design: 9 elements in 8 groups, 9, rounded blades
- Image stabilization: No
- Filter size: 67 mm
- Dimensions: (ø x L) 2.9 x 3.2 inches / 73.6 x 82 mm
- Weight 0.66 lbs. / 300 g
Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S — Ergonomics and build quality
If you’ve read my review of the Panasonic 85mm f/1.8 you’ll already know what I’m going to say about this 50mm lens. Both the Panasonic 50mm f/1.8 S and the 85mm version are almost identical in every way. Put these two lenses side by side and you’ll have a hard time telling them apart. The Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S is compact and lightweight. At just 0.66lbs it’s slightly lighter than the 85mm. The lens is just 3.2 inches in length. It balances perfectly on my Panasonic Lumix S5.
While the build materials overall are very good, you’ll know you’re not using a premium lens. Still, it’s not like you’re slumming it either. The plastic feels pretty high grade and it has a very light texture to it. The manual focus ring is large and easy to use. It also has a nice amount of resistance to it. There’s just one stout switch on the lens. It switches between auto and manual focus. The front filter thread (along with all the other primes in this series) takes 67mm filters.
The Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S is a nice-looking lens that’s built well and that feels nice in the hand. It weighs next to nothing which means it won’t become a burden. The lens is weather-sealed too. So, you can use this nifty-fifty out in the rain and snow without worries. While not a premium lens, the 50mm f/1.8 is a solid lens that should hold up well for a good few years.
Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S — In the field
The Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S is an incredibly user-friendly lens. It’s just what a nifty fifty should be. Attach it to your camera and you’re good to go. There’s no learning curve. The one simple control on the lens, which controls auto and manual focus doesn’t get in the way of using this lens and the manual focus ring is pleasant and easy to use as well.
There’s no stabilization in this lens. Still, it doesn’t need it. Thanks to the IBIS in the Lumix S5 I was able to handhold this lens down to 1/10s and could still get razor-sharp images. I did not get to use this lens out in the rain. However, having used other lenses in this series when the wet stuff was falling I know this lens will also hold up well. I went on several long photo walks with this 50mm and it always felt great while attached to the camera. You’ll have a fun time with it.
Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S — Autofocus performance
This lens is as sure-footed as a mountain goat when it comes to autofocus. Fast, zippy, quick … use any term you want to describe speed and you’ll describe this lens. Whether you’re using single point, wide modes or tracking, this lens is just plain fast and accurate. Even in low-light situations, the speed and accuracy of this lens are top-notch. Near to fast focusing happens rapidly, smoothly and silently.
In continuous focusing modes, there’s still a fair amount of pulsing. This is nothing for stills shooters to worry about. However, if you shoot video, well, it will be bothersome. It performs much better than Sigma lenses in this regard, but, just know your background will have a case of the wobbles in your videos. I do wish this lens had a closer minimum focusing distance as well like some of the Sigma I series lenses. Still, it’s a top performer.
Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S — Image quality
Image quality is where this sub $450 lens shines. Panasonic has done a fantastic job. Let’s break down image quality below.
Distortion control and vignetting
There’s hardly any barrel distortion to mention here. Look at the two images above and you see a very slight amount of distortion in the corners. That’s it though. There’s not even any hint of vignetting. This performance is impressive. Just know that straight lines will be straight when you shoot them and items at the extreme edges will not be distorted. Nice job, Panasonic.
Ghosting, flaring and chromatic aberrations
The Panasonic 50mm f/1.8 S does come with a lens hood. Still, even when attached the lens suffers from a fair amount of flaring and ghosting. Shooting directly into light sources will create some very harsh ghosting. Shooting with the sun off to the side will still create ghosting, it’s just not as severe.
When it comes to chromatic aberrations I only noticed purple firing in extreme conditions. You can see it on the water in the image above. Otherwise, fringing is controlled very well. I looked hard at my images and couldn’t find any green or purple nastiness in 99% of my images. Sunstars, as you can also see above, are pretty nice. The tines are well defined. You’ll notice though, that when shooting directly into light sources you do lose quite a bit of contrast.
Whoa, momma! You’d better carry Band-Aids when you shoot with this lens. It’s bonkers sharp. Wide-open at f/1.8 the image in the center is super crispy. The edges look fantastic too. The corners are a tad softer. However, stop the lens down to f/2.8 and it’s sharp from corner to corner.
You’ll get this level of performance down to f/11 and then diffraction starts to creep in. Shoot and be happy. You’re not going to have any issues with sharpness. This lens picks up tons of detail, even on my 24-megapixel Lumix S5. It will easily resolve the larger 47.3-megapixel sensor found in the Panasonic Lumix S1R and the Leica SL2.
The Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S is capable of producing some stellar bokeh. Bokeh balls are circular in the middle of the frame. However, they do become more Catseye in shape as you approach the corners and edges. There’s some onion ringing going on too.
Out-of-focus areas are nice and smooth and the fall-off is very nice. This will no doubt please portrait and product photographers who want to create image separation. What defines bokeh as being good, though, is different from person to person. So have a look at the above images and decide for yourself.
I found that the Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S produces tones that are slightly on the cool side of the temperature spectrum and that colors are quite saturated. All of the images in this review are straight out of the camera and have only had basic exposure changes made to them. If you want warmer images, choose the appropriate color profile if you shoot JPEGS. Otherwise, colors can be changed to your liking if you shoot RAW.
Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S — Worth the wait
It has taken a long time for this series of affordable Panasonic prime lenses to come to market. So far the ones I have tested have been worth the wait, The Panasonic Lumix 50mm f/1.8 S is no exception to this rule. The lens is well made, it has weather-sealing, and it’s easy to use. The optics, overall, are excellent. The autofocus motors are silent and they zip along at rapid speeds. The lens is incredibly accurate for stills. To top it off the colors and bokeh, to my eyes, are also very nice. It’s also less than $450!
It’s a shame that the pulsing issues persist in continuous focus modes as this will be a downer when it comes to shooting video. The ghosting at times can also be harsh. However, for the price, this is a killer nifty fifty that will serve portrait photographers, street photographers, documentarians and others very well. This lens is a no-brainer for L mount photographers. Want one click here to see the latest prices and availability.